By Mr. Stephen Standifird (Leonard Wood)May 25, 2017
Teams representing ground transportation specialists at seven U.S. Air Force bases in the region converged on Fort Leonard Wood for the first ever Best in the Midwest Ground Transportation Rodeo Saturday.
Units from as far as Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota competed in an Air Force Instruction test, and 4k forklift, 10k all-terrain forklift and 25-foot tractor trailer obstacle courses.
In addition to Ellsworth and Fort Leonard Wood, teams from Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska; McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri; Scott Air Force Base, Illinois; and an Air National Guard team from St. Joseph, Missouri, made the trip for the competition.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Imler, with the help of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony Dillier, both instructors with 364th Training Squadron, Fort Leonard Wood, coordinated and planned the event as not only a way to test the teams in tasks specific to the ground transportation military occupational specialty, but to bring the community together.
"We saw a need in our career field to bring our community together to communicate, provide mentorship and to have a good time," Dillier said.
The Ground Transportation Career Field manager, Chief Master Sgt. Jason Hohenstreiter, who took time out of his schedule to attend the rodeo, agreed. He said the main goal of holding rodeos like this is to bring the "Family" together for friendly competition. He also said it was a good opportunity for the noncommissioned officers to provide mentorship and show a sense of community and teamwork to the newer Airmen in ground transportation.
Hohenstreiter added this was "the biggest and best rodeo in the Air Force."
Each base was required to bring at least three members to compete, and could divide their team into each event as needed.
Friday evening started the competition with a reception and the first event, the 4k forklift course, which was a timed event. The rodeo continued Saturday with the AFI test followed by the 10k all-terrain forklift and 25-foot tractor trailer obstacle courses.
Both courses required skill driving the vehicle and were timed. The 10k all-terrain forklift event also included a secondary scoring method: water loss.
A barrel of water was attached to the forklift and filled with water. The overall score was adjusted based on the amount of water lost on the course.
Air Force Senior Airman Elizabeth Nefzger, representing Whiteman Air Force Base, said her approach to the event was to take the entire allotted time to complete the course while focusing on keeping the barrel balanced over the hills on the course to minimize water loss.
In the end, it was the Air Guard team representing 139th Airlift Wing that proved they were the "Best in the Midwest."
Senior Master Sgt. Robert Ward, team leader for the Air Guard team said this was an "unbelievable" experience that felt "awesome" to win.
Ward's top score on the AFI test, coupled with top three finishes in the tractor trailer and 10k forklift events, helped solidify their victory by one point.
Staff Sgt. Michael Hill said they will be looking forward to defending their title next year.
Other top finishers included Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marcelino Mariano from McConnell AFB in the 4k forklift event, Air Force Master Sgt. Justin Stager from Ellsworth AFB on the 10k forklift obstacle course and Staff Sgt. Matthew Benoit from McConnell AFB on the tractor trailer obstacle course.
Dillier said this competition is something he would like to see on an annual basis, not only for the Midwest region, but Air Force wide.
"It's not just about competing to bring home a trophy," Dillier said, "it's about being good at your job.